Owners of Sunshine Coast Distillery Inc, which owns an Emmonds Beach property north of Powell River, are upset about a Tla’amin Nation media release claiming a burial ground was desecrated by their actions, according to a statement from the company.
In the written statement, owners of the distillery deny this has happened, and reject that they have done anything disrespectful or caused any damage. The family and its companies have been very careful to respect the Tla’amin Nation, its history, heritage and environmental values and have taken many steps to protect the sacred heritage, according to the statement.
“In the news release, they claim there has been blasting. This is false; we did no blasting,” stated company president Shitao Lu. “They said we used a bulldozer on the sacred site. This is false; we had no bulldozer on any restricted areas. They included a photo of a machine claiming it had desecrated burial grounds, when in fact this machine is a backhoe that was cleaning old debris left by the former owners of a location that was outside the sensitive areas designated on a map provided by the provincial government.”
The statement indicated that Lu first invested in Powell River six years ago, and believes it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. According to the statement, Lu has been in constant contact with members of Tla’amin Nation since his first investment, looking for ways to work together on projects, and he created and funded a joint venture project to try to stimulate first nations job creation.
Lu stated he does not understand why the Tla'amin media release came out when the company has gone beyond standards set by the government reports.
“I am also confused because the news release has so many statements in it that are just wrong,” stated Lu. “It says we wanted permission to disturb the site and were denied. This never happened and we don’t even know what it means.”
One of the first actions of Sunshine Coast Distillery Inc. was to contact a prominent archaeological company for a consulting proposal, and to retain Tla’amin Nation’s former hegus specifically to make sure the distillery followed the best protocols, according to the statement. The Lu family hired Clint Williams, who worked with the Lu family when he was Tla’amin hegus, when they set up a joint venture for Tla’amin projects, according to the statement.
A developer carried out tree cutting, blasting and bulldozing and caused major desecrations at a sacred ancestral burial site at šɛʔaystən (Emmonds Beach), north of Powell River, according to a March 11 media release from the Tla’amin Nation government. Tla’amin was notified of the incident on February 25.
“The images are very upsetting; this follows recent desecrations by the city, homeowners and tourists at other sites,” stated Tla’amin hegus John Hackett. “To see graders and bulldozers driving over our ancestors’ remains at this site is completely unacceptable. We will take all means necessary including legal and direct action to stop these continuing insults to our ancestors and violations of our culture and laws.”